Integrity: Four Pillars for Self-Assessment
Integrity is one of those topics that can be difficult to define, but as Justice Potter Stewart said, most of us “know it when we see it.” In my work with executive teams, I find it is important to create descriptive language around anything we want to explore, develop and intensify.
On the topic of defining and developing personal integrity, The Hendricks Institute has provided a meaningful place to start along with the work of Jim Dethmer and Diana Chapman’s in The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.
Wholeness and Congruence
Let’s begin by defining integrity as the quality or state of wholeness, congruence or alignment. We note instantly that integrity suggests a sense of stability and firmness; having a structure that is sound without being rigid.
Integrity has been described as consisting of four pillars, leading to personal wholeness and strength of character.
Pillar One: Emotional Intelligence
A phrase popularized by Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and work with every type of human emotion. Its hallmark is the skill of discriminating between thoughts and feelings, and a willingness to “feel your feelings all the way through.” As humans we are remarkably adept at avoiding our feelings — we distract ourselves with work, food, alcohol, sex, Netflix — all wonderful aspects of human existence. But these activities are detrimental to our health when leveraged to numb our feelings.
As a leader pursuing greater integrity, get curious about all of your feelings. Notice when and where they are triggered and widen your window of tolerance for staying with them in the moment. What can you learn from your emotional responses? How can they make you a wiser and more compassionate human?
We can also develop the ability to be a safe space for other people to express and feel their own emotions. Becoming aware of the urge to quickly resolve or rescue others from difficult emotions of their own is an essential part of developing emotional intelligence.
Staying in the emotional experience and feeling our feelings all the way through not only strengthens integrity, it also builds resilience.
Pillar Two: Healthy Responsibility
Healthy responsibility is the willingness to take 100% responsibility for our physical, emotional and mental well-being. It also means being willing to allow others to accept full responsibility for their own lives and choices. This is tricky because when we commit to this pillar, we must stop blaming others for the events or outcomes in our lives. There is no more “it should be different” or making others wrong.
Healthy responsibility creates a state of conscious awareness in which we recognize ourselves as the creator of the experiences in our lives and see others as the creator of theirs. It requires that we cease believing that our family, friends or colleagues are in need of fixing or rescuing, and it restores their dignity in the process.
Pillar Three: Impeccable Agreements
For leaders, agreements are often the “coin of the realm.” Sometimes, we enter into agreements because it feels expedient or because we hope to get something in return for our “alignment.” Being impeccable with our agreements isn’t an invitation to rigidity; rather it invites us to fully commit to the agreements we do make, creating clarity around the “what” and “when.”
Living this way enhances the value of our words and our commitments. Our friends, families and colleagues know that we can be counted on — that our “yes is yes, and our no is no.”
Pillar Four: Conscious Communication
The final pillar challenges us to listen with the intention of understanding the experience of another. This means listening, not for the sake of resolving or crafting a better argument, but for the emotional experience of the human sitting across from you.
Conscious communication is also an invitation to “speak unarguably” and pare down your communication to the essentials. It is to make clear, direct points instead of generalized complaints.
The Work of a Lifetime
These four pillars set a high bar as we seek to deepen our experience of integrity. There is no point of arrival, only a continuing journey.
Loretta Cooper is a Senior Consultant at Wheelhouse Group. She is an ICF Certified Executive and Team Coach (PCC) and an accomplished consulting professional with more than 12 years of private and public sector experience. Loretta comes to consulting after nearly two decades in network broadcasting. As an award-winning, Washington-based, National Affairs Correspondent for ABC News, Loretta (aka Lauren Rogers) had the opportunity to observe leaders in every sphere of influence – political, government, corporate, activist – and learn from their strategy successes and failures. She is married, the mother to two fabulous young men (just ask!), and enjoys long walks, jet skis, good books, and knitting.
This post was originally published on August 25, 2020.